Discussion Thread

  • 1.  The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 08-29-2021 06:37 PM

    Throughout my time working on-campus, it has been rare for me to receive a performance review. Because of how small the staff always was in the offices, there clearly was no need when we would keep e-mailing or observing each other working.

    Something I just realized is, getting thorough, detailed feedback in a performance review is often a key to ascending in positions through a company. Many (especially women in the workforce) are receiving feedback that is too vague or imprecise for such progress.

    What is your experience with vague feedback in a performance review?

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH

  • 2.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 08-30-2021 08:30 AM
    This is a great question and has prompted the following observations.

    1. A performance review is a lagging indicator.
    2. In an ideal world, performance is directly linked to delivering results and delivering on promises. 
    3. Progression generally requires looking ahead to the next career rung and starting to emulate the behaviors and expectations of the higher rung.
    4. Annual feedback, especially of a negative nature or something to start or do more of, is too late. Ideally, you want regular and ongoing feedback from your supervisor.

    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX

  • 3.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 08-31-2021 12:58 PM
    Most companies these days will have a formal review procedure in place, but as Mitchell said this is often lagging as it's set up to be an annual review, so it's important to reflect on how often you personally want feedback and convey that to your supervisor. Pushing for more detailed or just more feedback can be uncomfortable but its often both important and necessary. 

    Over the past couple years of my career I've adapted two methods that have been helpful to me in terms of feedback. 
    1. At the end of the phase of a project I'll set up a quick and easy google forms to request feedback from the people I worked with on the project. I'll send it to anyone I had significant interaction with on the project - PMs, senior engineers, junior engineers, and engineers from different disciplines. I'll give the option for it to be anonymous and ask "What's something I did that was helpful/made your job easier" and "What's something I could start or stop doing that would make your job easier". Those questions are from the book Radical Candor and I've found them to be a better way to frame the question than "What did I do well/poorly?"
    2. When given feedback on my annual appraisal or other applications/work I've tried to actively push for tangible tasks that I could do better if it wasn't provided. This is sometimes an uncomfortable conversation but I've found it to be very useful once you get to core of any feedback. A key here I've had to remember is that I'm not fishing for praise and not to take feedback personally when delivered well. The ultimate goal is to get an action item to work on during the next review period so you have a check in point for yourself. 

    Overall, feedback can be challenging, both getting people to take the time to give it to you and sometimes getting quality feedback. Remember that a lot of people aren't trained in giving feedback in our industry so it's a learning experience for most from that end as well and they may or may not have been given resources when they were made a supervisor. One overarching piece that makes feedback easier to give and receive is developing a trusting relationship with the person giving it. That can be purely work based, but having a respectful and trusting relationship with your supervisor tends to make these conversations more productive.

    Taygra Longstaff
    Ipswich MA

  • 4.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 01-19-2022 09:51 AM
    Hi, would you mind sharing your Google Template? 

    Donovan Morrell S.M.ASCE
    Orlando FL

  • 5.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 09-02-2021 09:05 AM

    To add to the conservation: A leader in one of my former organizations use to say "feedback is a gift". This was usually targeted at the receiver, to soften a possibly difficult message.  Feedback is also a git that leaders can deliver as a means of developing staff and bringing out the best in individuals and teams. Being able to give feedback in a specific, measured, and actionable manner is a hallmark of great leaders in my view.

    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX

  • 6.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 10-01-2021 05:30 PM
    Each and all of the comments above work.
    I would suggest including this one:

    A 360-degree confidential performance review of all C-suite and Sr. managers by 100% of the
    employees.  IMO, 99% of the statements for employees to rate their own experiences with any or all of
    the survey group would address the observable behaviors of the survey group when addressing others.

    Provoke the org's leaders and top managers to  begin saying things out loud, as fit, like
    "I was wrong, let's start this again" and "What and how may I change to support the success of our people?"

    Stay Healthy!

    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880

  • 7.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 10-20-2021 01:01 PM
    Hi @Alexander Granato,

    This is a really interesting topic! We will be exploring this topic more during our virtual roundtable series (Thursdays @ 3). I hope you can join @Taygra Longstaff, @Kyle Haas, and @Katherine Colburn when we discuss this more on Thursday, October 21 at 3pm ET! I hope you can join us! 

    Register here.​​​​​​

    Tirza Austin
    Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191

  • 8.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 01-21-2022 04:24 PM
    In my opinion, we work backwards from the performance review (PR) back to the Company's goals. To have a PR there must be a performance agreement (PA) specific to you which includes your professional development plan. When I was at a large company, the PA had to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely or Time Bound (had to google that its been so long)).
    PR to PA to (Group Plan/Supervisor PA) to (Department Plan/Manager PA) to (Division Plan/Director PA) to (Company Plan/Goals)
    As a former supervisor/engineering manager of a group within a department, I based my group's goals and my own performance agreement (PA) on my manager/director's goals for the year. I mentioned in another thread topic that in my experience, it was tough developing SMART PAs for engineers, but it can be done.

    Vague feedback can mean a variety of things. It may mean:
    1. The Performance Agreement was vague or a PA does not exist. 
    2. There was little time spent by the supervisor and employee to develop an agreement. An agreement takes two (2) or more parties. Be an active participant in development of an agreement. If the employer or supervisor does not provide one, be proactive and develop your own.
    3. There is little to no basis for judging performance.
    4. There was or are no specific company performance goals.
    5. There is a non-specific performance link in the chain supporting the company's goals. A director, manager and/or supervisor lacks the experience to break down company goals into specifics for their department or group. 
    6. No business plan or outdated business plan.
    For companies measuring performance and looking to improve, there has to be a baseline. Feedback is typically about improvement.

    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA

  • 9.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 01-24-2022 10:50 PM

    As I was growing in my career, vague feedback often told me that the mentor or leader was either not comfortable with giving direct examples or the leader really didn't have a good examples.  Sometimes, I felt that it was a way to "keep" me around for a potential larger role in the future -- possibly stifling my career growth or path.

    Now, I find myself reviewing others or providing feedback in my current role.  Sometimes it is difficult to give direct feedback because we are either uncomfortable in giving the feedback or we are untrained.  Many times, an individual is elevated to a manager role because of their performance.  Being a good or even great engineer does not mean that he/she can become a good manager.  These are very different skill sets.  I have found that I did not receive enough training to elevate my management or leadership game.  I try hard to stay in regular communication with my team, and to give more pointed examples where needed.

    I would say that if you receive vague feedback, you should ask for a more specific example; so you know how to improve.  For example, I was constantly told in my younger days that I was excelling but can improve on "seeing the bigger picture."  That's pretty vague.  For a couple of years, I just let it go.  However, I asked one time and received the answers that I felt I needed.  I knew that I needed to become a Project Manager in order to step towards "seeing the bigger picture."  I find myself, now, constantly reminding myself to review the bigger picture before finalizing any design or as I teach/mentor other engineers.

    Jefferson Thao P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineering Manager
    McClone Construction Company
    Thornton CO

  • 10.  RE: The Impact of Performance Reviews

    Posted 02-20-2022 11:56 AM
    Hello Jefferson,

    Thank you for replying with all this thoughtful feedback.

    I have also noticed I needed more time to "see the bigger picture", usually in regards to being part of group project. I did not receive feedback myself about my performance for those activities, but my work then always lay in organization, documentation and other behind-the-scenes leadership roles.

    Maybe when I do start working full-time for a company, I will start realizing myself if I am not being challenged or given proper opportunities to grow from there. For the time being, my schedule is split up into a lot of minor activities, like being a Topic Moderator here.

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH